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Rebels with a cause: How to keep a big tent while staying on message

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Rebels with a cause How to keep a big tent while staying on message

The last presidential election’s recriminations require no reminders… primarily because they have lasted through the entire 2017, and are not yet finished.  The battle between NeverTrumpers, AlwaysTrumpers, SometimesTrumpers (which is, basically, everyone else) continues to generate dozens of articles and endless flame wars. Now, fighting over philosophical differences may seem like a tremendous, YUGE waste of time. However, all involved seem to be more committed to proving themselves right than to unifying the party or the conservative moment around any consistent set of principles that would help avoid factionalism now and in the future. NeverTrumpers claim that President Trump’s personality, character, and various actions before and after elections make him completely unacceptable in their view, and the worst of his supporters have taken over and ruined the party.

AlwaysTrumpers claim “my party, right or wrong”, and give, as a counterexample, the left, which is even more committed to destroying its common enemy than to eating each other, and somehow always stays on the party line message, which keeps them winning ideological influence, and often, elections as well. SometimesTrumpers believe in supporting the president when he does something they agree with, and critiquing when he doesn’t, without essentially losing their minds. There are varying degrees of intensity to each of these groups. However, many NTs, as well as ATs, cannot seem to live with the idea that there may be a very significant group of Republicans and conservatives who are not fully committed to a position more based in supporting a particular personality against the attacks by the left than in holding consistent political positions based in their understanding of what is good for the country.

STs, by and large, are viewed as unprincipled for being, apparently, neither here nor there. Understanding each of these positions is important, because as of this moment, everyone seems to be firmly rooted in his own view, with no possibility of budging anywhere.  Now, some ATs are coming out with claims that all NTs are really Democrats, and should be defriended, isolated, and ignored. NTs, on the other side, deride anyone who doesn’t spend all day criticizing Trump or who has publicly agreed with him on anything, as a weak Trump enabler. Some of the more “liberal” NTs will tolerate the STs, but still try to have them move to the NTs sides with vociferous criticism of Trumpian excesses. Ironically, all this time, actual hardcore progressive ideologues are laughing like hyenas as the party and assorted shades of conservatives are tearing each other up, over what is more a matter of ego than any real principles on anyone’s account.

Meanwhile, the Republican party is shrinking, conservatism is not growing, and not much is getting done.

So how to resolve this seemingly impossible dilemma: to be welcoming to diversity of views, while also developing a coherent and consistent message that can move the party mostly in the same direction… no matter who is at the helm?

Now, this is where conservatism and Republican party may hold entirely different answers.

Republican party is a political vehicle, currently best suited for conservatism to win elections. It is not, however, in itself an expression of conservatism or conservative values, and for that reason, there will always be an inherent battle of ideas within the party. The President is the party leader. It should ultimately be up to him to define the message of the party, as well as its direction.  What if the president is not conservative? Well, then, it is likely that the party will likely not be expressing conservative values either, unless, of course, a cadre of particularly active conservatives manage to convince the president otherwise. But that always works both ways. President Reagan was not always surrounded by stalwart conservatives, and yet the Reagan Revolution still remains a standard for a successful wave of conservatism, that swept the country.  President George W. Bush by all accounts was more conservative than most of his advisers, who eventually ended up prevailing on a number of important decisions, much to the disillusionment of many hardcore conservatives.

The party, at the end of the day is what the people most active within it, make it to be. It is not particularly productive, then, to think about the direction of the party as a whole, particularly when the president is not particularly ideological. Under such circumstances, it’s worth focusing on winning individual battles and taking it one day at a time. Focus on prevailing in particular instances win minimize the likelihood of creating more internal enemies than is absolutely necessary.  Both NeverTrumpers and AlwaysTrumpers should remember that the president, after his time in office, will cede his way to future, and yet unknown candidate, which means that we pretty much have to start all over again.

And it’s much easier to win those elections with a bigger party and a bigger tent than a smaller tent. It may FEEL better to cut loose all the haters and the losers, as well as all the suckers, the traitors, the RINOs, the fauxservatives, the alt-righters, and the sell-outs… except in 3 or 7 years, we’ll all need each other to fight another battle.  So why alienate and freeze out potential voters, who may yet change their minds on any number of issues for any number of reasons? We may not think we ever want to ever hear from these people again, much less use them for anything, but life is long, and that is something that is impossible to know from the current vantage point. So first things first: don’t destroy friendships over politics. Best unfollow the posts on social media until you can get a grip, and then rekindle those relationships when you inevitably realize that if there is anything more important than whom your former voted for in the last election is whom he is going to vote for in the next.

But what if what if those RINOs/alt righters are playing right into the hands of the left-wing enemy? Trust me, there is no one playing into the hands of the left more than you do if you cut them off completely. Human beings have free will, which means changing their minds, and being wrong, frequently and hopelessly. Unless you think that the apparatus of the authoritarian one-party systems served them well, all you can do is be persuasive and offer them something more within the party than outside of it – the ability be active and to persuade. Essentially, while the song “Stuck in the middle with you…:” may seem particularly ironic, the reality is that the only way to win is by finding a way for your ideas to prevail. You can’t force or scare people into compliance without either the party deteriorating into cultish groupthink that prevents fresh ideas and creative solution to political and ideological problems, eventually killing it before any progressive forces ever get to it, or without causing resentment, rebellions, and endless frictions. We see both right now.

As for conservatives are concerned, the beautiful thing is that not one person needs any apparatchiks to define the “message” for him. The message comes from the deeply held values, and the better we are equipped we are to understand and defend them, the more likely our ideas are to prevail and to help define that message. If most people call themselves conservatives, but are not even familiar with the basics, there will always be no shortage of con artists ready to hijack the messaging platforms and to stiff the entire movement with something grotesque and unpalatable.  Last year’s election clearly demonstrates that conservatism needs a revival in more than just numbers. There are two distinct issues that need discussion, understanding, and refinement:

The first: what is the state of conservatism as an attitude and a philosophy right now? It is only once we determine what themes are most prevalent that we can properly measure success, quantify and qualify it.

The second: what should it be? What principles can we draw from the great classics encompassing the bedrocks of the founding philosophy and how can we properly translate it into modernity, while avoiding past missteps?

Whatever our educational and outreach efforts, we should seek to expose our audiences to a broad array of thinking and determine where they stand for themselves. Abstract values and elections overlap but ultimately the goal of a value system is to provide guidance for selecting people who are most likely to defend those values, as well as to promote priority issues. Ultimately, conservatism, and any other paradigm, serve a greater purpose than merely a lodestar for dealing with imperfect human beings under pressure to gather as many votes as possible in high pressure environment where all sorts of other factors that have nothing to do with policy or philosophy come into play.

Ultimately, winning elections has to do with many factors – including campaign organization, identifying the audiences and reaching them in a compelling way, and having the flexibility and creativity to both plan and be spontaneous with overcoming obstacles when little is under control. Having the Greek chorus of supporters staying on message is but one of those factors. The left has not always been the most organized. And the wave of Republican frustration with the status quo swapped away all resistance in 2016, not just in the complicated and unpredictable presidential campaign but in both houses of Congress.  And yet, progressive values translate through institutionalized learning and control of the agencies through career officials at least, as much if not more than through political victories and legislative advances. There is no quick legislative or executive fix to institutions of higher learning, Hollywood, most mainstream publications and channels, tech giants, professional associations, unions, artistic scenes, innumerable non-profits, and other gatherings with wide reach and ability to influence hearts and minds.

The old stereotype that conservatives all tend to end up in business making money is only partially true. There is no shortage of highly erudite and cultured conservatives of all ages and background. And commitment to culture needs not be full time. Yet, what is ultimately funding of such opportunities is lacking. Gulf States and progressive billionaires endow chairs of universities with gifts that translate into particular type of curriculum, faculty, and even the backgrounds of students who end up being attracted to these fora. There is no shortage of conservative-leaning donors, yet their money goes at best towards think tanks and isolated conservative colleges, as well as equally independent publications. They are not buying stakes in mainstream media empires; endowing universities, or sponsoring production studios, with Clint Eastwood, a well established figure in Hollywood being one of the few noteworthy exception. Separating themselves into conservative spaces may be a good way to stay on message, but not a good away to go on offensive or to promote that message.

Also, staying on message becomes of increasingly limited value if the number of people sharing that message is decreasing over time. If conservatives want to see how well their message survives in the world outside the bubble, they need to first, engage with people who think differently from increasingly minute ideological confines, and second, engage in intellectual contact with the adversary, rather than flee the battlefield at first sign of danger or real challenge. The progressives have not won anything by being shy, deferential, wallflowers. Their strength is not in beating down anyone who even remotely disagrees with the party’s appointed messenger – in fact, that’s what cost them the presidential election in 2016. Rather, it is in promoting and supporting their own. They identify, cultivate, and place young talent by the hundreds. By contrast, conservatives cultivate political activists, but not necessarily pundits, opinionmakers, and ideological influencers. Those are left to their own devices – if someone manages to make it and create his own organization, they are indeed lauded and feted. But who do these young conservative organizations target? Other conservatives. How much effort is spent on questioning progressives, at least those who are open to seeds of doubts, and to the independents? As a result, conservatives seem to always be strengthening their base, but not really growing. Whether it is the Republicans scaring off potential supporters, or idealogues unable or unwilling to make contact with anyone outside the choir, the outcome is the same:

There is no one to stay on message.

Time to rethink our strategy, move away from bickering over differences whether in candidates or approaches, let people be with their opinions and disagreements, and do what the left has indeed has always done best:

Think long-term.

Irina Tsukerman is a human rights and national security lawyer, based in New York. I can send something longer, but then it would go into all the other things I've been involved in and might be too long!

Everything

Frathouse Conservatism Sucks

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I’m going to do a lot of offending in this column so viewer discretion advised if you are a snowflake on the left or right. The problem in the Conservative movement that needs addressing is the number of young Conservatives rising to prominence who lack any real depth or articulate principles. I dub thee “Frathouse Conservatism” because the problem largely stems from campus organizations. I am 22, so this isn’t some Gen Xer ranting about Millenials and Gen Z. In fact, I do not boast about how much better I am. Rather I point out the cause of the problem and point to the solution.

Rejection of Worldview

Western civilization is founded on the intersection of Athens and Jerusalem. The founding father’s took ideas of John Locke. Read this excerpt from the Second Treastie Chapter 2:

that self-love will make men partial to themselves and their friends;
and, on the other side, ill-nature, passion, and revenge will carry them
too far in punishing others, and hence nothing but confusion and disorder
will follow, and that therefore God hath certainly appointed government
to restrain the partiality and violence of men. I easily grant that
civil government is the proper remedy for the inconveniences of the
state of Nature, which must certainly be great where men may be judges
in their own case, since it is easy to be imagined that he who was so
unjust as to do his brother an injury will scarce be so just as to condemn
himself for it. But I shall desire those who make this objection to remember
that absolute monarchs are but men; and if government is to be 

the remedy of those evils which necessarily follow from men being judges
in their own cases, and the state of Nature is therefore not to be endured,
I desire to know what kind of government that is, and how much better
it is than the state of Nature, where one man commanding a multitude
has the liberty to be judge in his own case, and may do to all his subjects
whatever he pleases without the least question or control of those who
execute his pleasure? and in whatsoever he doth, whether led by reason,
mistake, or passion, must be submitted to? which men in the state of
Nature are not bound to do one to another. And if he that judges, judges
amiss in his own or any other case, he is answerable for it to the rest of
mankind.

The Conservative worldview is largely pieced together by John Locke. Mankind in fallen. Government can’t correct mankind’s fallen nature, because government is made up of fallen men. Fallen men, if given arbitrary uncheckable authority, will commit injustices. Therefore it is most ideal that government be limited in its purpose. It’s purpose is to protect inalienable rights and to navigate violations of said rights.

Conservative worldview hinges on accepting the premise that mankind is fallen. One need not be religious to accept this premise. Many Conservatives unknowingly accept fallen nature to be true while others fully embrace this premise. The Frathouse Conservative supplements this premise if not outright rejects the notion altogether. Instead of mankind being intrinsically flawed, the state is intrinsically flawed. This substituted premise often results in the same conclusions as far as policy goes, but rejecting a fundamental pillar of the Conservative worldview is the root of Frathouse Conservatism’s inferiority.

Rejection of Mission

Frathouse Conservatism confides Conservatism to simply small governance. This directly stems from the rejection of the fallen nature. Conservatism, in accepting mankind’s state, necessitates the pursuit of living to a higher standard. All of the founding fathers believed in living high moral standards, despite their diverse religious beliefs. The founding fathers wanted no part in debauchery. Frathouse Conservatism may instead celebrate immoral behavior under the guise of limited government. More distinctly, Frathouse Conservatism is ready to lampoon deviant moral behavior.

Frathouse Conservatism is not as purposeless as it may seem. The movement does contain a mission, however vein it may be. The best way to phrase it is in their own words “owning the libs!” In accomplishing this, there are no boundaries or lines not to be crossed. The use of personal attacks is often substituted for substantive argument. A classic example of this is Tomi Lahren who believes that social issues are a waste of time. Her column on social issues showed a very misinformed understanding of the last three presidential elections and a concern for only illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is an issue where conservatism favors one side. There are many worldviews that could come to the same conclusion that America needs to curb illegal immigration. Some people are concerned about security, others cost. There’s also a principled belief in rule of law. And of course nativism exists. Not all of these are necessarily conservative. But the mission of Conservatism isn’t to win elections as Lahren suggests it should be. The perpetuity of Republicans in office has shown to be a detriment to Conservatism. Rather Conservatism seeks to better society, largely through small governance. Jesse Kelly understands the mission in how he responded. Ben Shapiro’s response was also worth noting

One Trick Ponies

If were ranking top issues for the Conservative cause, opposing abortion is one of them. But not everyone on the side of life is a Conservative. In my experience arguing abortion with the pro-abortion, there arguments shift from logical fallacies to denial of moral personhood for all of the unborn.

These types of arguments do not have substantial logical backing, especially when placed in perspective with cultural practices and norms. The pro-abortion side is simply not the logical side of the debate. One doesn’t have to be a Conservative to come to this conclusion. Many people can articulate well thoughtout pro-life arguments. This doesn’t make them a great Conservative. A great Conservative can articulate Conservative positions on various issues with intellectual consistency. The Frathouse Conservative cannot.

Abortion is not the only trick these ponies may know. It’s similar to libertarians who are libertarian because of marijuana. There’s also immigration (back to Tomi Lahren) and race (Candace Owens). And then there are the snowflakes whose mission is to trigger the snowflakes. And upon being challenged, they hit that block button on twitter. And of course there’s the everyday Trump bandwagoners like CJ Pearson who wants to line his own Paypal account.

Tactics of the Left

Candace Owens is a classic example of a Frathouse Conservative. She is very capable of explaining why she walked away from the Left. There is nothing wrong with that. What I have issue with is two things:

  1. Her reliance and profiting from Identity Politics
  2. Smear on those who think differently

We get it, you’re black. Ted Cruz is hispanic. You don’t see him using his race to pander to “his” group. Conservatives should not be seeking attention for their race, rather, they should be seeking attention for their ideas and merits. Candace Owens has little of either. She can explain her life story. That’s fine, but she’s wrong to assume black people can’t freely be Democrats. Further more, her tactics are of the Left.

The Left has successfully employed identity based labels to attack those they disagree with. Owens employs the same. Conservatives should stay away from these tactics.

Solution

Frathouse Conservatism aims to own the libs. The libs do a good job at owning themselves and eating their own. The Frathouse Conservative places too much uniqueness in themselves. Demographically speaking, the coming generations of voters are likely to be more Conservative because Republicans are having more kids. The baby gap has been written about for over a decade now. After all, the Left supports abortion, gay marriage, and free birth control. These three things are not conducive to bearing children. Mathematically speaking, it is likelier for a child now to be raised in a Republican household. This doesn’t mean, they will grow up Conservative. However this does mean a young Conservative, like myself, is nothing special or surprising. Sorry to disappoint.

The solution begins by first realizing that a young Conservative is nothing unique, therefore not seeking attention for it. Don’t go to colleges that suppress free speech(yes this is something you can research), and don’t treat college like a summer camp. Work during school, and if you’re not working during school, you better be more articulate than Amanda Kemp and half the writers at Lone Conservative. You have the time.

With that said, everyone wants to be Ben Shapiro, but no one wants to put in the same work that Ben Shapiro put in. Shapiro is a hardcore writer and reader. The Frathouse conservatives on Twitter are typically neither. And through reading and writing, education and practice, the Frathouse Conservative can graduate to being an actual Conservative.

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Culture and Religion

$.02: When is it OK to quit church?

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Chris Sonsken of South Hills Church and founder Church BOOM penned a piece on Fox News that caught my attention on Twitter. It was a good column. Read the article here. The article addressed a Pew Research finding as to why people change churches. There finding as shown by Sonsken are:

  • Sermon quality
  • Welcoming environment/people
  • Style of worship
  • Location

Sonsken does a great job in arguing that there are biblically sound reasons for leaving a church and finding a new one.

1. It’s OK to leave if God calls us to leave.

2. It’s OK to leave for family and marriage.

3. It’s OK to leave a church if you have moved too far away to conveniently drive to your church.

4.  It’s OK to leave if you cannot follow the church’s leadership.

5.  It’s OK to leave if heresy is being preached.

Sonsken even mentions that unethical practices like abuse are reasons to leave, though not the norm for the majority of church swapping.

The reasons Sonsken gave are no cause for disagreement, and I’m sure his book Quit Church probably better articulates them.

Where I want to add my two sense on the matter is that I disagree with his assessment sermon quality is not a biblical reason for changing churches. The supposition that sermon quality is inherently a result of the person treating church like an object of consumption, as Sonsken suggests is not true. I believe sermon quality is an umbrella term for several reasons for not liking a Sunday message.

Too often people leave a church because of disagreement, not getting their way, or because the sermons are no longer deep enough. Often when we dig into the reason the sermons are not deep enough, it ultimately goes back to the person being offended or not having their faulty theologies endorsed from the pulpit. The same pastor who was previously deep enough becomes shallow once there is an offense. It’s incredibly difficult to hear from God in a sermon when we are offended by the person delivering the sermon.

This is true in many cases. A sin that is personal gets preached on and the offended party leaves. I don’t deny this to be the case. But I believe we should look deeper into the current trends of worship and focus on the mission of the church.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-21 ESV

The church is to preach the gospel, but people accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior is only part of the mission. The Church is tasked with making disciples. The church is meant to teach. Not every follower is at the same level in their spiritual maturity or theological depth. Some churches, larger churches in particular dumb down the bible. In public education, this would be seen as lowering the bar. In church this practice could hold back believers in their growth. Small groups are a way to supplement this, and every church should employ bible study as a means to grow discipleship.

Many churches now are focused on metrics. This can lead to theologically watered down sermons and worship. Why risk offending that person who may leave with a sermon? But if a church is more focused on using a Sunday message to give a motivational speech using an out of context passage, what does it matter if they are doctrinally sound (in their written beliefs)?

There are a lot of heretical churches in America. We have issues like gay marriage to separate the sheep from the goats. But what about the sheep that suck? If a church has the right doctrine but is more focused on metrics than the power of the Holy Spirit, their head is in the wrong place. So it is biblically sound to change churches so that your head to remains in the right place.

That is not treating church like a consumer product. That is treating church like one’s means to grow spiritually, better recognizing the mission of the Great Commission.

That is my $.02 on the matter. I hope I added some meaningful word to this topic.


This post was originally publishd on Startup Christ. Startup Christ is a website for business and theology articles and columns.

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Guns and Crime

Liberty Control (aka Gun Control) Dead at 501 [1517 – July 10, 2018]

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Today we celebrate the passing away of one of the Left’s worst legacies: Liberty Control

Liberty Control (aka Gun Control), the absurd idea that depriving the innocent of a means of self-defense will protect them from criminals and the government died on July 10, 2018, after a protracted illness. The past few months saw it suffer multiple degradations, but the final cause of death was a settlement between the Department of Justice and Second Amendment Foundation in SAF’s lawsuit on behalf of Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed over free speech issues related to 3-D files and other information that may be used to manufacture lawful firearms:

Significantly, the government expressly acknowledges that non-automatic firearms up to .50-caliber – including modern semi-auto sporting rifles such as the popular AR-15 and similar firearms – are not inherently military.

“Not only is this a First Amendment victory for free speech, it also is a devastating blow to the gun prohibition lobby,” noted SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “For years, anti-gunners have contended that modern semi-automatic sport-utility rifles are so-called ‘weapons of war,’ and with this settlement, the government has acknowledged they are nothing of the sort.

This curse on freedom began with the nonsensical label ‘Gun control’ but like a mutating virus, it morphed into ‘Gun safety’ or ‘Gun reform’ as people began to understand it’s true liberticidal nature. The final proper designation for this statist abomination helped seal its fate: Liberty Control.

In recent years, Liberty control had suffered a number of potentially fatal maladies ranging from the Heller and other Pro-Liberty decisions of the Supreme court to the virtual explosion in gun ownership with untold numbers of new adherents joining the ranks. Despite valiant attempts by the Left to resurrect this absolutely horrid idea from a bygone era, most imbued with common sense came to realize that more guns equaled less violence.

Liberty Control is barely survived by its one year older half-brother in statist tyranny Collectivism, born when the book ‘Utopia’ was published in 1516.  This ancient idea remains in critical condition having been transferred to the Bronx on life support. It is not expected to survive, despite the best efforts of the Socialist-Left. As is usually the case when a free-people can properly assess the liberticidal ideas of the Left.

Libertas [The ancient Roman personification of liberty] Celebrated the death of one of its intractable foes down through the centuries. “There must have been some viral affliction in the water of the early 16th century to have created these two horrible curses upon mankind.”

Services will be held on July 27th, 2018, and after August 1 Cody Wilson plans on re-launching Defcad.com with ‘a treasure trove of 3D-printed gun files for download.’  In Lieu of flowers, those of the Liberty loving public are encouraged to visit https://ghostgunner.net/ after that date and download the files for future use as well as donate to the organizations that defend this critically important freedom.

Please note that while we are using this ‘obituary’ form to prove a point, it should be patently evident that the dreams of the Liberty grabbers of banning and confiscating guns are now dead. Even if by some freakish turn of events whereby the defenders of Liberty forget history, agree to the requirement of governmental permission to exercise a commonsense human right, and then have their guns confiscated. The technology will still exist for everyone to produce their own weapons. It should perfectly clear to everyone including the cadres of Liberty Grabbers out there that the genie is out of the bottle, that there is no way they can ever ban guns, knives or even the odd spanner here and there. It should also be evident that such groups should move on to other causes that actually have a chance of coming to fruition. Also, note that it was very proper that this took place during #Gun Pride Month.

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